New announcement. Learn more


The impact our programmes make on the lives of children and their whānau are clear.
Teachers, social workers, principals and children’s advocates explain these impacts.

"Jade Speaks Up is a necessary part of a preventative psychological health programme."

Jacqueline Graham–Barley
12th September 2020

Read the full testimonial

"Providing an environment where children are safe and do not live in fear is what we would like to think is the norm in our communities. Sadly this is not the case. 

Many children live with frightening moments in their lives, to many this is normal. They do not know how to put their concerns into words, or with whom to share these issues.  So many sit in silence or act out with negative or disruptive behaviour.

Jade Speaks up  allow conversations to  begin and one’s stories to be  told.  Then we have the beginning of understanding our emotions and behaviour. To see there are alternatives and some simple strategies can help get us through scary situations.

The Jade Speaks Up programme, provided in the school environment, explores emotions and reactions. The exercises bring out emotions, provides insights to understand how two people can look at a situation from different angles. It provides strategies in calming techniques.  These are all useful approaches for everyone’s mental health, no matter our age.  These strategies build mental health resilience. Having such a programme in school is the ideal place, as teachers spend a lot of time with children. Teachers are the professional adult that children are in contact the most.

As with any early intervention programme in psychological health, it can take results several years to see the impact. It is reassuring that over the three years Jade Speaks Up has been in use there has been overall positive results.

Jade Speaks Up is a necessary part of a preventative psychological health programme. There are few such programmes available.  Without such programmes we are destined to continue to provide the “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” services after the psychological issues are well entrenched. There are many therapists providing hours of treatment services. As a retired GP of over 40 years experience in primary care I have seen plenty of entrenched behaviour of fearfulness, anxiety, stress, depression. I have provided many hours of therapy. Often long term psychological intervention is required to change behaviours and sadly this may not be enough to change negative reactions into positive reactions. Also when events become overbearing we tend to revert to behaviour we learnt as a child.

If we believe that prevention is better than cure then continuing to fund Jade Speaks Up programme is necessary to build up psychological resilience and reduce mental health problems."

Jacqueline Graham-Barley
MB Ch B, FRNZCGP, FRACGP, Diploma Obstetrics and gynaecology, Diploma Farm Health. Advanced Diploma Dermatology Advanced Diploma Skin cancer medicine and Surgery, Retired GP, Retired Senior Lecturer Central Queensland School of Medicine

"Jade Speaks Up is a tremendous asset to the skilled family violence practitioner tool kit."

Michelle Clayton - Family Action CEO
and Linda Cooper - Auckland City Councillor

Read the full testimonial

"Creating the resource Jade Speaks up was a real community effort ably led by Elaine Dyer and her team at Violence Free Waitakere, bringing together expertise from across the West Auckland Family Violence Sector. Family Action was pleased to have been involved in the co-creation of the resource from inception.

The clinical team use Jade Speaks Up extensively within the agency both with individual children, siblings and families. It is used for safety planning, helping to facilitate conversations and for parents to understand the impact of violence on their children.  We use the worksheets which are excellent and straightforward.

It is a tremendous asset to the skilled family violence practitioner tool kit."

"Jade Speaks Up does not pretend to be the fix-all but rather a powerful tool to work alongside other initiatives that share the vision for all tamariki to flourish and reach their full potential. "

Deborah Sim - Barrister and children's advocate

Read the full testimonial

"Thank you for telling me about and introducing me to the Jade Speaks Up Programme. As a family law barrister, I have seen the consequences of family violence and unresolved conflict in many family/whanau and other relationship situations. I have witnessed the distress and damage caused to children and understand how seriously this can impact their development and future wellbeing.I am so encouraged learning about Jade Speaks Up! I see how powerfully this programme could act as an intervention to empower and support the children who participate, and through them, their whanau and communities. The results from your 3-year pilot demonstrate already what the programme has achieved to date.

There are many things I could say about the programme which appear very positive. Here are some of the strengths that I see:

  • Using the school environment as the forum for delivery, a place where most children must attend and where there is a chance to connect with whanau and caregivers as well as other related agencies and experts.

  • Using teachers as the facilitators, people who children are likely to trust already, and therefore providing a platform upon which to build further trust.

  • Working in the classroom environment and with a whole school (years 5 – 8) to build awareness of and compassion for other children as well as teaching practical relationship and ‘keeping safe’ skills. This education will benefit all children who participate, not only those perceived as ‘at risk’ now. The statistics on improvement in classroom behaviour and reduction in bullying associated with participation in the programme are encouraging.

  • The goals of the programme and outcomes sought are visionary but also very practical.

  • The emphasis on supporting and training teachers to follow appropriate procedures for dealing with receiving disclosures, will serve and better protect children who are involved in intervention by other agencies. I have seen cases where this has not happened and the consequent damage that has been caused.

  • The intention to continue to improve and modify the programme through feedback from users and advisers, ongoing data collection and review of results, and a commitment to maintaining integrity to the vision of the programme rather than attachment to particular outcomes.

  • The support and advice of the Advisory Board and the links with other related agencies, including consultation with Māori and Pasifika.

I know from my work representing children as Lawyer for the Child in Family Court cases, the transformation that can take place when a child experiences being given the chance to speak and be listened to and how this validation can support a child even when the circumstances of their situation does not immediately change.

This programme will only be as successful as the support it is allocated. I am aware that the resources of teachers and schools are already stretched and so they will need adequate resourcing to support them in delivering Jade Speaks Up effectively. The feedback from teachers as to the value of this programme should be taken seriously, in particular the improvement in classroom behaviour which must benefit the children and help to keep good teachers in education.

Jade Speaks Up does not pretend to be the fix-all but rather a powerful tool to work alongside other initiatives that share the vision for all tamariki to flourish and reach their full potential. It is in line with the Government’s 2018 pledge to improve the wellbeing of children and young people in New Zealand. We all know that this goal can only be achieved if, as a nation, we commit to addressing the underlying causes of family violence and unsafe living circumstances, poverty, poor housing, poor mental health outcomes, addiction, inequality of opportunity and other structures of social dysfunction.

In my view, Jade Speaks Up deserves adequate funding and support in all aspects of delivery, development and continued evaluation, in recognition of the value we place on our children as taonga, and as an investment in the future wellbeing of and outcomes for the people of Aotearoa. I sincerely hope that it can be rolled out nation-wide.

There is a story about the Children’s Fire, a tiny fire that the elders of the ancient American people brought into the centre of their Circle of Law, to remind them of their pledge that no decision, action or entity would harm their children or Nature’s children for seven generations. Jade Speaks Up honours the Children’s Fire. I hope that its spark is kept alight.

“Take care of our children. Take care of what they hear, take care of what they see, take care of what they feel. For how the children grow, so will be the shape of Aotearoa” Dame Whina Cooper.

Ngā mihi nui"

Deborah Sim
Barrister and Children's advocate

"One of the strongest messages I gained from this workshop was that a child lacking a voice in a violent home will be powerless and become lost. They won’t reach their full potential and lack self-belief. "

Lisa Sell - Southern District Health Board

Read the full testimonial

I attended the “Jade Speaks Up” training at Kaitangata Primary School in January 2020.

This primary school is one I am assigned to in the Clutha District as a Public Health Nurse and so I know the school and community well.
At the end of 2019 it became evident that the school was having to manage and help support children for increasingly complex situations around violence and the children feeling unsafe. They needed to know they could talk to people they trust that were not necessarily in the community but in the school setting, where they spend such a significant amount of time.

By teachers, teacher aides, principals, Oranga Tamariki, NGO’s and myself being able to complete this training of Jade Speaks Up, it meant that the students and teachers can have stronger, trusting relationships and the pupils feel more connected and grounded.
Children often need to learn the skills of resiliency outside of the home in a healthy environment to become confident with developing coping strategies and this can happen at school.

One of the strongest messages I gained from this workshop was that a child lacking a voice in a violent home will be powerless and become lost. They won’t reach their full potential and lack self-belief. Adults have many stressors in their lives, with different ways of reacting to these stressors. If the child becomes a victim of this they need to know that someone understands, and can find help and support for them.

Children will still be victims of violence, they will still disclose at school. The next layer is added if the school cannot listen and understand where the child is coming from. It is imperative that the teacher feels strong and able to help the child’s voice be heard by appropriate people and action taken.

Lisa Sell - Southern District Health Board

"We need more programmes like Jade Speaks Up that address the lived reality of children and young people in Aotearoa... Jade Speaks Up works."

Dr Russell Wills - Paediatrician, Hawke’s Bay District Health Board and former Children’s Commissioner

Read the full report

"New Zealand has exceptionally high rates of family violence and child abuse compared to the rest of the world. Even if not physically assaulted, violence is profoundly harmful to children in the short- and long-term. The cost to our society and economy is enormous. Māori are over-represented among both perpetrators and victims. Family violence is our national shame.

There are many causes to this, including the effects of colonisation, entrenched inter-generational poverty and inequalities in wealth and income, overcrowded, expensive and poor-quality housing, and societal attitudes that normalise and accept violence within families, particularly men’s violence to women and children. Solutions will require addressing all of these issues and a start has been made, but they will take time.

It shouldn’t surprise us then, that paediatricians are seeing increasing numbers of children referred due to problem behaviour in our clinics. Family violence, mental illness, addictions, poverty and transience are common in the families we see. Parents often tell us of the violence they witnessed as children, and how desperately they want their children’s lives to be better than theirs.

Medicine can offer little to such children and families. We refer to expert colleagues in social services and mental health, and we involve child protection staff or police when we need to. However, for many of these children our intervention is too late and there are of course many children we never see. We need to intervene much earlier in the life of the violence, and in the life of the child. In my experience, the key to this is helping parents to understand the impact of their behaviour on their child. And a key to that is giving children the skills to understand what is happening to them and the language to safely share this with other adults they trust, and with their families and whānau.

Jade Speaks Up is a teacher-delivered programme for students in years 5-8 (8-14 years old) that aims to improve students’ emotional literacy, self-calming and social problem-solving, and to give them skills to stay safe in scary situations including family violence. Teachers receive dedicated professional development on how to deliver the programme and respond to disclosures, support from mentor teachers and supervision. The programme has run 23 times over three school years, 2017-2019, in 18 schools, four of which have repeated the programme at least once. These schools have a combined total of over 3,200 students participating in Jade Speaks Up. The initial invitation to join the pilot went out to schools already participating in the Ministry of Education’s Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) programmes, which is based on Webster Stratton’s Incredible Years for Teachers programme. PB4L in New Zealand is directed to schools in low income communities, so JSU schools had a median decile of 3.6 with significant numbers of Maori and Pasifika families. Involvement of parents, communities and external agencies with appropriate expertise has been integral to the programme.

The evaluation you will read below has been comprehensive. Standardised, quantitative tools addressing multiple aspects of student wellbeing, behaviour and safety address questions like, “How much difference did the programme make?”. Qualitative (narrative) data addressed questions like, “What did we do?”, “What lessons did we learn?”, “What did we change during the programme and why?” and “what else changed that could not be captured by the quantitative tools?”

The quantitative data demonstrates that the schools chosen had appropriately high levels of risk for an intervention of this kind. Only half said that home was a safe place and 4% said their local park was safe. Forty-one percent had an at-risk wellbeing score on the Child Outcome Rating Scale.

Quantitative improvements in student-reported wellbeing measures pre- and post-intervention were generally positive, greater in at-risk than low-risk children, varied with age and gender more than between ethnic groups and while not large were maintained over time. In contrast, student skills to deal with scary situations increased significantly and teachers reported substantial improvements in classroom behaviour and improved academic outcomes.

Narrative comments demonstrated many other changes that teachers and students ascribed to the programme. Teachers described developing skills and confidence to manage students’ disclosures of violence, neglect and being left home alone. Many were surprised at which students disclosed, noting that many were “good at hiding” problems at home. School policies and professional development changed in some schools in response. Other students shared attitudes normalising physical punishment, giving the opportunity to open up conversations about appropriate and unsafe discipline. Mentor teachers reported their colleagues’ empathy and insight towards students with behaviour problems improved and students were better able to cope when unexpected changes occurred in their school.

Lessons were learnt and the programme improved over time. Some schools delivered the programme differently according to their school culture, though generally teachers found that if they delivered the programme themselves, they learnt more about their students and it was more powerful. Boys and girls process social and emotional situations differently. There are challenges with boys and more active students learning self-calming strategies, for example. Lessons were learnt about how to integrate students’ own cultural practices and language, which made some interventions more effective.

I commend the Accident Compensation Corporation for its courage and vision in funding Jade Speaks Up. We need more innovation like this in health, education and social service delivery. We particularly need more programmes like Jade Speaks Up that address the lived reality of children and young people in Aotearoa. There is risk in innovation; not all innovations work and some can do harm. This is why funding comprehensive evaluations alongside innovative interventions like this are so important.

Jade Speaks Up works.

It should be made more widely available as funds permit and as schools learn of it and are prepared for it. The teachers and principals I know are desperate for programmes like this so I look forward to seeing the programme expand and continue to learn and improve. I hope we will also see more innovative, well-evaluated programmes of this kind funded by our central government agencies and philanthropic funders.
No-one should believe however that this is “the solution” to family violence in New Zealand. Alongside empowering our children, we must continue our work to make Aotearoa a more equitable, more just and safer country. Our children deserve no less.

Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri a muri ake nei.
For us and our children after us."

"Jade Speaks Up is useful for everyone, not just children at risk... I recommend it for all schools with children aged between 8-13."

Eve Tonkin - Principal, Timatanga Community School

Read the full testimonial 

"I just had to put pen to paper to express my gratitude to you for the extraordinary programme that you have created. Jade Speaks Up is very different to any health programme that we have ever had anything to do with because it is holistic, emotionally intelligent and authentic for each who participates in it.

The depth, breadth and profundity of the programme makes it far and away the best personal safety programme that I have ever come across. It is also the best emotional intelligence course that I have ever used. It has helped me to identify children who are in need of help, who would never have come forward otherwise, and, equally importantly, it has taught all of the children in the class to be more self-aware, to understand their own and others’ emotions better, and to develop the tolerance towards others and the self-assertiveness strategies that are so important at NZC Level 3 and 4.

Teachers are often the first port of call for unhappy and/or at-risk students, and while we are professionally capable of offering a great deal of support to them, we are not trained counsellors. We have to learn on the job, by listening to and caring about our students. The demands on us sometimes make us so busy that we are not present for our kids. Doing the Jade Speaks Up programme together gave us the space and time to be more real together and gave the students opportunities to help each other out. As the students understood that their classmates cared for them when they shared various emotions they felt more deeply connected, and as you know, connectedness is the state of being on which all true and personally meaningful learning depends.

Jade Speaks Up is useful for everyone, not just children at risk. Before I did it, I was concerned that some of the content might frighten some students, but this never happened. In fact, the course has been created with such sensitivity that students found it meaningful and real whatever their situation in life, and no one was overwhelmed by the content. The students also found it fun and they still play several of the games that they learned.

Another key strength of the Jade Speaks Up programme in my opinion is the fact that it is not a behavioural programme wherein teachers train students to follow certain behaviour patterns and pass moral judgements on what is and isn’t ok. Rather, it is an inclusive programme that goes to the root of human separateness and suffering by reassuring children that they have a right to be happy and safe, and enabling them to “breathe, think, and do” to get themselves there. This is why, even now, two years after their Jade Speaks Up class, the students who went through it with me still use “Breathe, Think and Do” and the children who were the juniors at that time still talk about it in school meetings. The idea of breathing to relax when you are upset is part of our school culture.

I fully endorse this programme and recommend it for all schools with children aged between 8-13.

Mauri ora!"